After 70 years in business, Wauke Mills is closing its doors for good.
Brothers Rich and Mike Borenitsch, 74 and 70, respectively, have operated the family business since 1989 when they took it over from their father, Ted.
The family has owned the animal feed mill since 1952. Originally, the business was at agrist mill at Madison Street and St. Paul Avenue in Waukesha. Now it’s along Highway F near Capitol Drive in Pewaukee, atW230 N3655 Redford Blvd.
The businessmoved to thefamilyfarm in Pewaukee in 1974when Highway F was a two-lane, tree-lined road and not a highway. At the time, their business was shiftingfrom working with farms to more homeowners, many insubdivisions and people wanting to feed wildlife.
“We bag probably over several hundred tons of corn every year,” Rich said.”Wildlife eat well here in Waukesha County.”
Over 70 years of business, a loyal customer base has followed. Patrons from Waukesha County and as far as Illinois have, for decades, came to the storefront on Highway F. Whether feeding horses, birds or other wildlife, customers have always relied on the feed mill in Pewaukee.
However, the six days and 60 hours a week have added up. At ages 70 and 74, the brothers agree that this is the time to retire.
“Keep it up so long, and the body starts wearing out a bit,” Mike said.”But 100-poundbags dont feel like 100 pounds anymore. They feel like 140 pounds.”
They posted a sign on the door alerting customers to plan ahead of their July 16th closing.
“Just age wise,we got old. Nothing to do with anything else,” Rich said. “We’d like some time to spend with the kids and grandkids and catch up on things.”
Customers have voiced their disappointment with the decision but also their gratitude.
“Theyre pretty sad,” Rich said.”A lot of them say, You cant, but they understand. They wish us well, and some are pretty sad about it. Its an end of an era. End of a way of life. We tell them if they want a feed mill, go to the one in Merton.”
Feed mills have become fewer and fewer in the last decade. One in Muskego closed in 2020 and was unable to sell the business. The Borenitsches said they would have liked to sell the business,but there isn’t a market.
Instead, they sold the 11 acres, which includes the business, to a developer. Rich said they are thinking about putting in multi-family housing, but it still needs to go before the city.
With retirement on the horizon, the brothers said they’ve looked back on the business that has been in there their entire lives and will miss it dearly.
“Id jut liketo thankthe community for 70 great years,” Rich said. “It’s noteasy to go 70 years without great peopleand great customers. Theyre just like family.”
Mike echoed the sentiment.
“Certainly were going to miss it,” he said.”You have to. Youll miss everything and everyone.”
Drew Dawson can be reached at email@example.com or 262-289-1324.